Let Down By Her Community

Posted by Dino Biordi

It's heartbreaking when the elderly cannot rely on their community for help.

When we enter life on this planet, we don't have a choice but to trust our parents or guardians to protect us, keep us alive. Likewise, when we reach an advanced stage of life. We become just as fragile and need to be able to trust the community we have invested in for support and to keep us safe.

My family and I are deeply saddened about the circumstances of a partially blind elderly woman found dead in Auckland, N.Z after allegedly barricading herself in her bedroom in fear of eviction. It struck our hearts as we felt it was an unnecessary death as a result of a Strata Resident battling with Body Corporate over rising repair costs and building work delays.

"I'm still in siege mode here," she wrote in an email to a Home Owners Association.

"Still no word from anyone as to what's going on. But I guess something's going to happen, just when and how I don't know."

A legal order was given to the Body Corporate to seize the elderly lady's home. At the time of reporting police hadn’t confirmed the cause of death as the case has been referred to the Coroner.

The community and the building's residents have been shocked by the death; however, were aware of her distress at the commencement of the building’s major defect work.

Strata Managers look after by-law compliance and regulations, Building Managers look after the buildings facilities and uphold the by-laws, and yet we are not the only ones responsible for the overall operational Building Management. Owners have the ability to shape the community within a Strata Managed building, and that can begin with one goal in mind: upholding each other’s safety and comfort in our own homes. Although a challenge in itself, Owners would benefit in striving to work off the same page, in being positive and proactive in decision-making, and by electing a dedicated Executive/Owners Committee committed to achieving a high level of community spirit, transparency, and excellence.

We can all learn from this. Where are the gaps? This was allegedly a $10m project - could this tragic outcome have been avoided if a vote was approved to have the Owners Corporation pay for the elderly lady's rent during this distressing time? Major defect works on buildings can, (most of the time), be tough for all residents, so let's spare a thought for those less able-bodied amongst us before signing off on any commencement. There should be tools to help our disadvantaged through the tougher times, especially when it comes to what support they need and especially when they have supported their own communities up until this point. Yes, the Committee did offer some support with a reduced rent. Evidently this was not enough. Stating that there was nothing else that could have been done is a decision they will now have to live with.

Just like the decisions we make today will impact the lives of our children of tomorrow, let's not abandon the children of yesterday! With a bit more consideration, we may all yet get to grow old and enjoy a harmonious life together in the years to come....